The new store, launched yesterday in Waterloo, has been designed as a fresh take on contemporary Australia with ties to the brand’s US heritage and will inform a broader store refresh program, which began earlier this year.
Its original brand icon Pizza Pete has also been reintroduced into signage and internal designs alongside several menu innovations, such as localised flavours, designed to cement its point-of-difference as a dine-in pizza option – juxtaposed to market leader Domino’s delivery focused offer.
The move is a sign that the chain’s owner, private equity firm Allegro Funds, is looking to bolster the consumer-side competitiveness of the chain, after it purchased the master franchise license for Pizza Hut from American owner Yum! Brands in 2016.
Under Yum! Pizza Hut began falling behind rival Domino’s technologically enabled fast-delivery model, prompting management to spend the last year undertaking a broad-based improvement plan within the business that included the acquisition of Eagle Boys outlets late last year.
Allegro has also been busy bringing new talent into the business since to reposition its future under the stewardship of former McDonald’s executives Peter Rodwell, Lisa Ransom and Chris Leslie. The chain’s new director of innovation, Matthew Sawyer, who was brought over from McDonald’s in December last year, told Inside Retail that the re-brand would deliver a local spin on a well-known brand with global credentials.
“Pizza Hut in previous years had lost its direction and when we took over the business we clearly identified that there was a lot of love for the brand – in particular the old dine-in restaurants with the all you can eat buffets and the self-service desserts,” he said. “We knew we had to do something around that to reconnect with the Australian community.”
Sawyer said dine in will be a point-of-difference for Pizza Hut’s new look, with franchisees given autonomy within a flavour toolkit to localise parts of the menu. He calls it ‘glocal’ – a play on the words local and global – a philosophy that will be rolled out iteratively over the next few years through the 300+ store network.
“Over the next few years you’ll see significant change in the brand, how fast we roll this out will depend on how fast we learn about how well certain items work in different communities,” he said. “That’s the thing about global, it’s going to be different everywhere.”
In many ways the dine-in focus doubles down on Pizza Hut’s pre-existing market position, but made-to-order rather than pre-prepared pizzas as well as new delivery methods – previously a sore point for the business – such as electric bikes will round out the new offer.
Allegro has previously said it has no intention of contesting Domino’s market leading position, but does want to cement itself as the number-two in the Australian market, making Retail Food Group (RFG)’s Pizza Capers and Crust brands relevant competitors.
RFG has been embarking on its own repositioning since last year, revamping its QSR division to focus more heavily on lunchtime business with new products and mobile food trucks. IBISWorld data from 2016 placed Pizza Hut’s share of the local market at just over 15 per cent after the Eagle Boys acquisition, compared to Domino’s 25 per cent share and RFG’s 4 per cent share.